Product managers have a lot on their plates. It’s part of the job; product managers are tasked with managing communication, product knowledge, knowing what the customers want, prioritizing the backlog, and managing a product’s lifecycle.
It’s an exciting job, but the number of responsibilities product managers juggle can also make the job challenging and sometimes overwhelming. If team communication isn’t seamless, for example, a product manager can find themselves run ragged trying to make sure everyone is on the same page. If a team’s vision about the product isn’t aligned, a project could be delayed as each part of the team tries to go its own way instead of sticking with the plan. Also, a product manager’s day to day duties can distract them from big picture duties, like market research, or developing their product team.
Even worse is when RFPs get thrust upon a product manager.
Product managers can be an important SME when it comes to responding to RFPs, but it’s easy for the sales engineers or proposal managers to see a product manager as a single source of truth, and constantly ask for information. This can be a huge distraction from the product manager’s actual duties, and may threaten the timeline of their product.
Sales enablement can help ease some of this stress.
What is sales enablement?
To quote Gartner: “Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively.”
The goal of sales enablement provides all sellers with whatever they need to effectively engage buyers throughout the entire sales process. This means sales enablement is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of tools, content, training, and other support for sellers. CRMs (Customer Relationship Management platforms) fall under sales enablement, as does sales training.
But what does sales enablement have to do with product managers, who aren’t on the sales team?
How can sales enablement help product managers?
Sales enablement can help product managers and product teams create a clear line of communication with sales and marketing, as well as delegate tasks more effectively so that the product team can invest more time in actually developing the product and getting it to market. Sometimes this is a two-way street: the product manager has to put in some effort to clear hurdles that will appear later in the product’s life cycle — like making sure the sales team has all strong, accurate information about the product as soon as possible.
Take training, for example — product managers are tasked with making sure sellers know everything they need to know about the product. Product marketer Antonia Bozhkova wrote about the tension that exists between some sales teams and their product managers for SessionStack:
“Sales teams feel they never get the necessary training and tools from the PM while the latter believes her efforts to train and educate the sales force are futile and time-wasting.”
Bozhkova suggests continuous training, continuous updates of the sales deck, and notifications whenever new material is placed into a knowledge base. This way, sales teams have accurate information.
Sales enablement can also keep product managers from becoming the one source of information about the product — a problem that can become an issue when RFP responses are being written by stressed and insistent proposal writers. Training more than one Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), can help product managers ensure that knowledge isn’t being siloed and that many experts have been trained to understand the product.
Automated tools can help share knowledge as well.
By using a tool like RFP automation, product managers can answer a question for a bid once rather than rewriting the same answer they’ve written many times before, or searching through old messages to find an answer they sent previously. That can be a huge waste of time; according to research firm Aberdeen, sellers average about 43 hours a month searching for the content they need to do their jobs. RFP automation tools store the answer in a response library where writers can pull it up when they’re working on a bid.
Sales enablement tools can also keep that information updated; Ombud’s RFP automation software allows team members to vote on content so that the most relevant content is always easily accessed.
Because RFP responses take so much time, sales enablement tools can streamline the process — and keep the product manager out of it as much as possible — giving everyone a chance to focus on developing a strong product and selling it.
Sales enablement and the product manager
Despite the stress of the job, plenty of people find product management rewarding; according to Glassdoor, product management was ranked the third best job in the U.S. in 2021. This may have something to do with the satisfaction of shepherding a product through its lifecycle from development to market.
Sales enablement tools like RFP automation can make that process smoother by removing some of the hurdles faced by product managers while giving the sales team the tools they need to sell the product once it’s launched.